Andrew Adams and Jaydon Mickens started Thursday on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' practice squad but before the night is over they could be suiting up against the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL's 2021 Kickoff Game.
On Thursday afternoon the Buccaneers utilized the rule, first introduced in 2020, that allows teams to elevate up to two players from the practice squad for each game, tabbing Adams and Mickens for Week One. Additional practice squad players may be elevated to replace players lost to the reserve/COVID-19 list, but the Buccaneers currently have no players on that list.
The two elevations give the Bucs a 55-man roster heading into Thursday night. They will have to declare either seven or eight of those players inactive 90 minutes before the kickoff to go with either 47 active players or 48 if eight offensive linemen are kept active. Adams and Mickens could be among the 47 or 48 active players or they could be declared inactive.
Adams is a safety who has played the last three seasons for the Buccaneers, though he actually signed with the Philadelphia Eagles this past offseason as an unrestricted free agent. When the Eagles released Adams in the league-wide cutdown to 53 players for the regular season, the Buccaneers gladly brought the experienced veteran back to their practice squad. Tampa Bay will be playing Thursday's game without starting safety Jordan Whitehead, who is out with a hamstring injury.
Mickens is a wide receiver who was the team's primary return man for much of the 2020 season. He was released in the cuts to 53 before re-signing to the practice squad. Tampa Bay did have two receivers, Antonio Brown (knee) and Chris Godwin (quad) on their Week One injury report but both were considered full participants on Wednesday and did not receive a game-status designation such as 'questionable.' If active, Mickens would also give the Buccaneers another option in the return game along with rookie wideout Jaelon Darden.
The practice squad elevation option was first introduced in 2020 as part of the new collective bargaining agreement. It came prior to a number of other rule changes that the NFL and NFLPA agreed upon in the summer of 2020 to provide teams with more roster flexibility during the pandemic. The new rule was something of a compromise, as it did not expand the active rosters beyond 53 players but did give teams a few more options on game days.
After the game, Adams and Mickens will automatically revert to the practice squad without having to pass through waivers.